Five years is a stone-cold eternity in the realms of modern audio technology. But that is the length of time now passed since Apple announced its inaugural smart speaker, the HomePod (June 5, 2017, to save you asking Siri).
I'll nail my colors to the mast: the original is still sonically excellent. It's open, detailed, regimented across the frequencies and it fills my home office with great-quality music every day. The downside? It was (and still is) expensive, at $349 / £319 at launch – a pricing strategy wildly different to Amazon's affordable Echo lineup.
And worse than that, my beautiful HomePod was actually discontinued by Apple over a year ago, despite a rollout for Spatial Audio – something which never made it to the smaller, cheaper HomePod mini.
Yes, the newer, more bijou product is still one of the best smart speakers you can buy today, thanks to its excellent sound, compact design, and great price, but as a huge fan of Apple's free (and soon to be personalized) Spatial Audio upgrade on Apple Music, I'm missing the support.
To reiterate the thoughts of a colleague earlier this year, I've been wishing for a new, improved full-size HomePod – or HomePod 2, as we've taken to calling it – for a while now. And it looks as if my wish has been granted.
According to noted tipster Mark Gurman in his most recent Power On newsletter, "The HomePod, code-named B620, will run the same S8 chip coming to the (new Apple) watches and will be closer to the original HomePod in terms of size and audio performance rather than a new HomePod mini."
And there's more! Gurman adds, "The new HomePod will have an updated display on top and there’s even been some talk of multi-touch functionality."
Opinion: when Apple aims for great sound, it rarely misses
As a self-confessed audio geek (audiophile is still a word I shy away from) I have long been chastising Apple for refusing to make the standalone DACs or wired headphones with which to enjoy its own Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless quality on Apple Music and instead honing in on its wireless AirPods lineup, all of which include Bluetooth chipsets unable to support Lossless playback.
Want an Apple-branded headphone with support for Lossless? Why, it's the $30 wired EarPods – let me give you the tour.
Back to the matter at hand though, and Tim Cook's behemoth is seemingly starting to care more about music quality – see also the new MacBook Air, with Spatial Audio support and a high impedance 3.5mm headphone jack. But a new full-size HomePod? This is how to get Spatial Audio singing. I truly believe the sky is the limit here.
The current orb of swirling light that strikes up on my HomePod whenever I holler a request at Siri still mesmerizes me, years after I first saw it, and I cannot wait to see what Apple is cooking up to outdo it. Album artwork and track selection information? Highly likely. And "multi-touch functionality" is even more of a teaser, suggesting waving across said display to skip tracks, instead of the tap-tap-tapping required today.
But of course, it's the "similar size and audio performance" enhanced with that newer chipset that most excites. As an owner of both the HomePod mini and the original HomePod, I can tell you that the original outdoes its younger sibling hands down, in all areas except pricing.
Of course, this is the giant otherwise known as Apple, so eyebrow-raising asking fees might still be unavoidable. But I'll be keeping my eyes peeled and my ears to the ground as the leaks start popping across the internet with ever-increasing urgency, for what Gurman predicts will be a "busy fall 2022 and first half of 2023" – including the AirPods Pro 2, for those wanting more Apple music thrills.
For now, we wait…